By MACKENZIE STEELE
November 25th is White Ribbon Day 2016, and this year one of the themes is Respectful Relationships.
Respect is important for all kinds of healthy relationships, like family, friends, and of course significant others. For youth, we look to our role models to help us shape our relationships with others, but sometimes the ones we end up with are far from positive.
Here are a few tips for using any role model to get your own respectful, healthy relationships, just by changing a few habits.
Look at the adults around you
How do they relate with people? What are their relationships (romantic & otherwise) like? Is their effect on others positive, negative, or neutral? What do they do to have this effect?
Maybe you don’t like how your aunt’s gossiping makes people anxious, or maybe you love how your neighbour listens to everything and never judges. From big things to little things, every good and bad habit the people around you have can be harnessed. Even if some adults you know seem to have negative relationships, at least you know which behaviours to avoid.
Look at your peers
How do they relate to people? What are their relationships (romantic and otherwise) like? How are the relationships in their family? What effect do they have on others, and why? What effect do you have on them?
Everyone your own age, from your bestie, to your sibling, to your arch nemesis, is a mirror. Even kids a lot younger than you can give you massive insight into behaviours, causes, and effects. You might realise that “that guy” is the way he is because of his own family problems which he keeps to himself. Or you might even see how you are acting.
By watching other people and finding out where they come from and why they do what they do, you can have better relationships with them, and get insight on yourself. That way, you can find out your own bad habits, and track your progress as you change them.
Look at media
How do movies/TV shows/books/graphic novels/social media/magazines/etc portray relationships? What effects do they have inside the media? What effects would they really have? What effects do they have on you?
Everything (the way co-hosts on the news treat each other, the characters in your favourite cartoon, “relationship advice” in women’s magazines, comments on YouTube videos) can show you a lot about healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Maybe that Disney show you secretly love has characters that are actually really mean to each other, but it all ends happily ever after every episode. Perhaps there are not-so-nice comments on a Twitter post, and even though no-one can see it somebody somewhere is really hurt.
By analysing the portrayal of relationships in the media around you, you can see the hidden messages in them. Some are good, some are not, but like before you can take the positive and replicate it, and avoid the negative.
The hard bit
How do you affect others? What interpersonal habits do you have that are positive? Which habits of yours are negative? What are the habits you want to gain? How do you lose the negative ones?
You’ve researched habits of adults and peers, analysed the media, and taken a good hard look at yourself. Hopefully you’ve looked at how you influence others by looking at how others react to you, and have figured out which habits you want to lose, and which ones you want to hone in on.
Now you need to figure out how. For example, if you remember to look at situations like other people do, you might be less grumpy when you’re standing in line at the supermarket, because it’s really too busy for one person at a counter and the mother with the screaming children probably thought her children weren’t quite as tired as they were.
Mindfulness and empathy can get you a long way, but you need to practice. If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying! You’ll get there eventually, it just takes work. Apologise when you get it wrong, then pick yourself up and carry on.
After a while, you’ll barely ever have to stop yourself slipping into an old habit or have to consciously start a new one, because you’ll do it automatically. The positive change in your relationships will surprise you.
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